In a down economy, everyone is looking for unique ways to save a few million dollars. When you have a billion dollar franchise like Hasbro’s Transformers, every million counts. Noting the rising costs of special effects, advanced planning for marketing tie-ins and laborious contract negations, Paramount is considering shooting the fourth and fifth installments back-to-back. Hasbro CEO announced at the company’s third quarter earnings conference that they were actively discussing this strategy with Paramount, director Michael Bay and producer Steven Spielberg. With Shia LaBeouf not returning, this frees up some room for a new face of the franchise…perhaps, Jason Statham?
Hit the jump for more on Transformers 4 and 5.
News of the “rolling shoot” strategy by Paramount and Hasbro comes by way of Variety, whose sources say there may very well be two films headed into production instead of one. The tactic has worked before, going as far back as The Matrix: Reloaded and Revolutions to the divide-and-conquer approach of the final film of both the Harry Potter and Twilight series. (Director Justin Lin’s Fast Six and Fast Seven may be headed down the same path). This strategy pays off in a number of ways, which I will attempt to break down.
Creatively, everyone can get on the same page and develop a plot treatment for two films at one time. Screenwriter Ehren Kruger (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Transformers: Dark of the Moon) is reported to have ideas that are in lockstep with the studio, but has only just begun creative meetings with writers. Michael Bay, who is currently only slated as an executive producer with Spielberg, is said to have interest in directing if he can have some time to work on his passion-project Pain and Gain. Bay is also a creative consultant on Transformers: The Ride 3D which opens at Universal Studios Hollywood next spring. Planning two films without a break would be easier on everyone’s schedules.
Contractually, getting cast and crew on board for two films would save time and money over renegotiating between shoots. One familiar face of the franchise is definitely out, as Shia LaBeouf has stepped aside. This frees Paramount up to put a new stamp on the franchise and allows the writers to take more liberties with plot lines. The aforementioned Jason Statham has been on the radar, but no offer is on the table as of yet.
Lastly, the marketing advantage to planning two films consecutively is money in the bank for Hasbro and Paramount. The toymaker has made over $1 billion in toy sales alone from just the first two movies. Hasbro reported a 10% rise in profits from one year ago, due in large part to the Transformers tie-in sales. Although the company has plans to make feature films from some of its other products such as Micronauts, Candyland, Risk, Stretch Armstrong, Clue, Monopoly, Ouija and Battleship, there is no desire to turn into a Marvel Studios-type filmmaker. CEO Goldner seems content to do the toymaking while studios continue to do the filmmaking. If you ask me, it’s worked pretty well so far.